By Joe Mellor, Deputy Editor
Ed was dashing, daring and decisive, I expected him to pull his face mask off and reveal his brother. But no, this was all Ed, he reminded me of (if you are not a Robert Zemeckis fan, see you in the next paragraph/article) George McFly in Back to the Future, who somehow manages to turn from weakling to hero, knocking out his bullying nemesis Biff Tannen.
Today, Miliband used every question to get the PM to back his proposal, to stop MPs taking second jobs as consultants or directors. Countless (and let’s be honest mainly Tories) MP squirmed in their seats.
Earlier this week Cameron said ministers should be able to work a second job in the “family shop or publishing business” Was a publishing business the most hoi polloi organisation he could think of? “Oh, he only has a little side project, Harper something…”. Just a small point to add, it is claimed Jeremy Hunt is worth a measly £4.7million from his stake in educational publisher Hotcourses.
If I worked in Greggs and announced half way through my shift I was going to hold up a “Golf sale” sign, I would expect my marching orders. I wonder if Tony Blair touts for business with a “gulf sale” sign, outside UN summits?
Anyway, back in the bear pit, the PM always had his trump card…the unions. ”What about the MPs who have second jobs with unions?” he cried. Argument over, the PM assumed, but not this time.
Ed fought back, “ok then, no members who have second jobs with unions (funnily enough I don’t think there are any) will be allowed to be MPs either, now back my vote?” It was a hammer and sickle blow. There was nowhere for Cameron to go.
Miliband pointed his fingers at the Tories benches “will all those honourables and right honourables vote for two jobs or one? I’ll be voting for one”.
The PM coughed and spluttered, the usual boisterous cries of “more! more!” from the Tory benches after the leaders’ exchanges, were as damp as the Dawlish railway line in a storm.
Cameron said that “both of them (Straw & Rifkind) had referred themselves to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner and have had the whip withdrawn, so could now take consultancy jobs on behalf of Central Asian Despots.” Ok he didn’t say the last bit, but nature will take its course.
It did make me chuckle when the PM said that “paid lobbying was banned, and wrongdoing would be investigated and punished”, as if he had uncovered this current scandal himself. Ignoring the fact that without the Telegraph (the current wicked witch of journalism) and the current affairs show Dispatches, both of the distinguished members would belobbying senior diplomats on behalf of Chinese business interests, as we speak.
But the biggest laugh of all came from the Father of the House, Sir Peter Tapsell, he said “if members couldn’t have a second job, parliament would largely be confined to inheritors (David Cameron, Lord Strathclyde, Zac Goldsmith…), people with rich spouses (Iain Duncan Smith), obsessive crack pots (Where do we start? David Tredinnick) or people who can’t get employment elsewhere (would you give Danny Alexander a job?)”.
There was some praise for the PM today though, Mike Crockart, Lib, congratulated Cameron on the legislation regarding nuisance calls. But I do wonder if the parties will prosecute themselves in the run up to the elections – the PM admitted the parties “light canvass” people, in the same way double glazing salesman lightly sell confused pensioners plastic windows for their rented accommodation, which come with a guarantee to stay fixed until the next parliament (if they reduce it to four years).
There was also good news for London, Sir Richard Ottaway, Con, said London’s economic plan “will create 500,000 jobs in London, but it is not just London’s economic plan, and will make London the greatest city on earth” (so it’s not a London plan?).
The PM said England’s capital will outpace New York, but didn’t discuss any of those irrelevant Chinese megaloplises that are barely worth a mention on the world stage these days, unless you’re messrs Straw and Rifkin.
However, when the dust settled after PMQs, it was Cameron’s face in the manure. Maybe now Miliband can finally go Back to the Future, but he better get the settings right on his DeLorean and not end up in a nightmarish 1983 rather than a triumphant 1997. “Great Scot” and I don’t mean Gordon Brown.
Sycophantic question of the day
Andrew Stephenson, Con, who told the House about his fourth Pendle jobs fair, and to congratulate the people who have got jobs since 2010, which really meant praise him.
George McFly played by Ed Miliband.